Bu­rundi po­lice break up protests against pres­i­dent

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ESDRAS NDIKUMANA

Po­lice in Bu­rundi bat­tled pro­tes­tors Mon­day in a sec­ond day of demon­stra­tions over a bid by the cen­tral African na­tion’s pres­i­dent for a third term in of­fice.

At least six peo­ple have been killed in street clashes be­tween the po­lice and civil­ians demon­strat­ing against the Burundian pres­i­dent’s bid for a third term, a spokesman for the Bu­rundi Red Cross said on Mon­day, as hun­dreds con­tin­ued to gather in the streets of the cap­i­tal de­spite a heavy mil­i­tary pres­ence.

Three peo­ple were killed in clashes with the po­lice on Sun­day and three oth­ers died of their in­juries overnight, Alexis Mani­rak­iza told The As­so­ci­ated Press by phone from Bu­jum­bura, Bu­rundi’s cap­i­tal.

Seven more peo­ple had been wounded, he said.

Au­thor­i­ties also de­tained a lead­ing hu­man rights ac­tivist and is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for an­other leader of the cam­paign to block Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s at- tempt to cling to power.

The un­rest erupted on Sun­day af­ter the rul­ing CNDD-FDD party, which has been ac­cused of in­tim­i­dat­ing op­po­nents, des­ig­nated Nku­run­z­iza its can­di­date in the June 26 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The pres­i­dent, a for­mer rebel leader and born-again Chris­tian, has been in power since 2005.

Op­po­si­tion fig­ures and rights groups say his at­tempt to stay put goes against the con­sti­tu­tion as well as the peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple were killed in the more-thandecade-long con­flict.

On Mon­day demon­stra­tors were back on the streets, with po­lice us­ing tear gas in Cibitoke, in the north of Bu­jum­bura, to pre­vent around 1,000 demon­stra­tors reach­ing the cen­tre. Sev­eral other demon­stra­tions were re­ported across the cap­i­tal.

The gov­ern­ment has banned all protests, and on Sun­day halted na­tion­wide broad­casts by Bu­rundi’s three main in­de­pen­dent ra­dio sta­tions, which have been ac­cused of en­cour­ag­ing an “up­ris­ing” against the gov­ern­ment.

Lead­ing hu­man rights ac­tivist Pierre-Claver Mbon­impa was also ar­rested Mon­day. A wit­ness, who asked not to be named, said Mbon­impa was ar­rested “bru­tally” dur­ing a po­lice raid on the head­quar­ters of a me­dia as­so­ci­a­tion.

Mbon­impa’s lawyer, Armel Niy­on­gere, said he had not been in­formed of the charges against his client but be­lieved “the ar­rest is linked to his call for demon­stra­tions to­day.”

An ar­rest war­rant has also been is­sued for Vi­tal Nshimi­r­i­mana, head of a prom­i­nent NGO fo­rum.

In­ter­na­tional Pres­sure

Rel­a­tives of Sun­day’s slain demon­stra­tors told AFP that they were shot at close range by po­lice.

But speak­ing on state tele­vi­sion, Bu­jum­bura’s mayor Saidi Juma claimed the pair were killed by other demon­stra­tors.

Two fur­ther deaths dur­ing overnight vi­o­lence were con­firmed by the army.

At least 15,000 Bu­run­di­ans have fled the coun­try to neigh­bor­ing Rwanda in re­cent weeks, ac­cord­ing to the U.N.’s refugee agency, which has warned that those num­bers could rise.

Many are flee­ing threats by the pro- gov­ern­ment mili­tia Im­bon- er­akure, the youth wing of the rul­ing CNDD-FDD party. Rights groups al­lege that the mili­tia has been armed and trained over the past year in or­der to help Nku­run­z­iza re­main in of­fice.

On Satur­day, Wash­ing­ton con­demned Nku­run­z­iza’s can­di­dacy and warned the coun­try was “los­ing an his­toric op­por­tu­nity to strengthen its democ­racy.”

Af­ter Sun­day’s protest deaths, the African Union ap­pealed to Bu­rundi’s gov­ern­ment to “ex­er­cise the high­est re­straint and pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion.”

The in­flu­en­tial Catholic Church has also spo­ken out against the pres­i­dent’s plans to stay put.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein warned re­cently the coun­try was at a “cross­roads” be­tween a fair vote and a route back to its “hor­ren­dously vi­o­lent past.”

AFP/AP

(Right) Demon­stra­tors protest against Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s bid for a third term in power in Bu­jum­bura on Mon­day.

(Left) Burundian riot po­lice pa­trol in the cap­i­tal Bu­jum­bura on Mon­day, April 27.

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